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Protect Yourself Against Ransomware

woman on laptop with coffee in a hat

Millions of Americas are affected by online scams every year. One way that criminals are parting good people from their hard-earned money is with ransomware and money-laundering activities. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is urging families to be on the lookout for these scams. Here’s how to stay vigilant and protect your bottom line.

What is Ransomware?
It’s often a form of software (or malware) that lays in wait for you to download it. These bits of malware are often hidden in email links or unsecure sites. However, if you download one, you might not know it for weeks or months. Maybe longer.

When the malware is activated by a remote source or code, the software will block access to your personal computer and/or data. To gain access to your computer or data, you must pay a fee or ransom. Essentially, the criminals are holding your private information hostage, and unless you pay the ransom, they will erase it or never give you access. They may even threaten to publish or share embarrassing or sensitive files with the world.

The criminals often want their payments sent electronically (wire transfer) in the form of gift cards or cryptocurrency.

How to Stay Safe
The best method to avoid ransomware is to avoid opening unfamiliar emails, following unsafe links, giving out personal information to companies you don’t trust, and downloading programs to your computer from unknown sources. This includes printer and peripheral software you might need to get a new piece of hardware running. Additionally, keep your system software updated to ensure your security protocols are always up to date.

Report Ransomware and other Fraud
The FTC needs everyone’s help in identifying and putting a stop to online crime, including ransomware. If you become a victim of this crime, visit reportfaud.ftc.gov/#/ and tell the FTC what happened. They’ll fill you in on the next steps.